On Friday, a U.S. federal judge dismissed a class action lawsuit against the United Nations launched by Haitians who say U.N. forces should be held accountable for their nation's cholera epidemic.
Judge J. Paul Oetken said the U.N. enjoys immunity against such cases.
According to Oetken, the U.N. would have to waive its immunity for the case to go ahead. Beatrice Lindstrom, a lawyer with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and supporter of the class action, has slammed the court's decision.
“The court’s decision implies that the U.N. can operate with impunity,” she stated, according to the New York Times.
Launched in 2013, the lawsuit alleges the U.N. should provide compensation to victims of Haiti's cholera outbreak, which began in 2010.
The outbreak has been linked to Nepalese U.N. peacekeepers. Human waste from the peacekeepers was allegedly dumped in Haiti's waterways, leading to the rapid spread of the disease. An estimated 700,000 have contracted cholera since 2010 – 6 percent of Haiti's population.
Around 8000 people died from the epidemic, which today is widely viewed as the worst cholera outbreak in recent history.
Although the epidemic is likely receding, thousands of new cases of the disease are reported every month.
The U.N. has vowed to help curb the outbreak, but has refused to comment on the lawsuit. In late 2012, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pledged US$2.27 billion in funds to fight the disease in Haiti.
Advocates of the class action have vowed to appeal the court's decision.
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